Rebecca Fleet is the author of The House Swap which was published by Doubleday on 3 May 2018.
Rebecca kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The House Swap.
The House Swap tells the story of a married couple, Caroline and Francis, who are attempting to recover from a difficult few years by entering into a house swap and going away for a week’s holiday. When they get to the new house, it seems bizarrely anonymous, but before long Caroline starts to find personal resonance and meaning in some of the things she finds there – things that remind her of a tumultuous time that she has worked hard to forget. She starts to wonder if this can be a coincidence… and if not, who she has just let into her own home.
2. What inspired the book?
I grew interested in the idea of house swaps a couple of years ago when I noticed how popular sites such as Airbnb were getting. To me it always seemed like quite a peculiar thing to do, to let a stranger into your home and inspect your possessions without you being there – and almost equally odd to live in someone else’s space about whom you know almost nothing. It felt like a potentially rich territory for a psychological thriller or suspense novel, so I started fleshing out the characters around this central hook and it flowed from there. Think of it as a rather darker version of The Holiday (I had a soft spot for that film!).
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I am definitely a planner – the idea of sitting down and writing without some kind of structure mapped out fills me with horror. I don’t think I’d come out with a decent plot that way; it would all get pretty vague and meandering. So I do work out the plot in quite some detail before I start… the details of individual scenes tend to come to me as I write them, but they don’t usually take me too far from that central outline.
4. Having been through the publishing process is there anything about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?
I suppose that when the novel was accepted by my agent and then subsequently by Transworld I kind of assumed that it was finished! However, this wasn’t really the case – we spent another couple of months or so editing it, both at a line level and at a more overall plot level, before it was officially declared ready. It was a process that I found challenging at first, but ultimately very rewarding – it can be hard to step back and see the wood for the trees sometimes when it comes to your own work.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
Relax? Errrm… not a word with which I am very familiar. I do love a spa day – you can’t beat a Jacuzzi, a massage and a nice lunch – but that isn’t something I get to do every week alas. I work four days a week in brand strategy and also have a six year old daughter, which keeps me pretty busy. Aside from that I like cooking, reading obviously, occasionally swimming, and I have a shameful soft spot for reality TV.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
I suppose I would have to say the book which I have actually read the most without getting tired of it, which is London Fields by Martin Amis. I first read it when I was 14, quite an impressionable age, and was hugely impressed by the way in which he used language and how vivid the characters felt to me. I essentially tried to copy his style for the next decade, which didn’t work out too well. I still love the book, though.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
People never seem to ask whether fame is a motivator when it comes to wanting to be a writer – perhaps because it’s seen as a relatively introspective form of communicating with the public. In answer, I have to admit that I have always quite liked the idea of being well-known… not to the extent of being unable to walk down the street for fear of getting accosted by the paparazzi, but that is an unlikely scenario for an author in any case. But yes, I would like my name to spark recognition around a dining table – hopefully for the right reasons!
About the book
‘No one lives this way unless they want to hide something.’
When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap, they jump at the chance for a week away from home. After the difficulties of the past few years, they’ve worked hard to rebuild their marriage for their son’s sake; now they want to reconnect as a couple.
On arrival, they find a house that is stark and sinister in its emptiness – it’s hard to imagine what kind of person lives here. Then, gradually, Caroline begins to uncover some signs of life – signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music in the CD player might seem innocent to her husband but to her they are anything but. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone she used to know; someone she’s desperate to leave in her past.
But that person is now in her home – and they want to make sure she’ll never forget . . .
Read more on the Penguin website.
About the author
Rebecca Fleet lives and works in London. The House Swap is her first thriller.